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Marriage of Sticks, The [Hardcover]

3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 26.28 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 9 1999

A hip young woman sees an uncanny old woman in a wheelchair by the freeway in the middle of nowhere. Back home in New York, she marries an older man. They move to a large old house along the Hudson River, and she begins to see ghosts. Then, as in vintage Carroll, things get really strange. This may well be Carrolls best fantasy novel.

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From Amazon

Jonathan Carroll is a writer other writers envy. He's been described as a "cult favorite" whose works go out of print too quickly in the USA, despite his popularity in Europe and the admiration of reviewers. It may be because Carroll uses fantastic elements, but doesn't write genre fantasy; his books are often haunting, even frightening, but they're not horror novels. He puzzles you, surprises you, and always makes you think about how what he's saying might apply to your life.

In The Marriage of Sticks, Miranda Romanac is a thirtysomething dealer in rarities who loves her work and lifestyle, but feels unfulfilled. As her friend Zoe says,

you don't expect anything better to happen because you've lived too long and seen too much to have any more hope. I'm luckier than you. I don't think life's very friendly either, but I know we can control hope. You can turn it on and off like a spigot. I try to keep mine on full blast.

Miranda struggles to change her life after upsetting revelations at a high school reunion. She has an affair with a married man who leaves his wife and children for her. She lives with ghosts of her past and future, with what might have been and could be. She's forced to face the consequences of her actions and the effect she has on others' lives by being who she is. Finally, she learns "to live without everything" and be content. --Nona Vero

From Publishers Weekly

In the first half of Carroll's new fantasy (after Bones of the Moon), there is little to prepare readers for the surrealism of the second half. Over one hundred pages of aged protagonist Miranda Romanac's memoirs of quotidian high school and yuppie romance drag by. Although there are wonderful insights and poetic phrases, the whole is drowned in eldersprache: actual scenes are far outweighed by a distancing voice heavy with reflection. Then, in the midst of Miranda's passionate adulterous affair with a New York art dealer, very strange things start to happen. Miranda's lover suddenly dies. Apparitions haunt and bloody her in the house given to her by Frances Hatch, a former mistress of Kazantzakis and Giacometti. Alternate worlds open before her, and Frances helps Miranda navigate: they have an ancient connection, it turns out. The writing abruptly shifts in the second half, becoming poetic and magical, dense with a wonderful strangeness reminiscent of Fellini and urgent with inklings of horrors around the corner. Miranda must discover the awful truth of what she is, while weird ancients watch and guide. Carroll often startles with the deftness of his insights, both personal and metaphysical, and there are many lines that, for their poetry, one wants to cut out and frame. But this book is alarmingly full of shoehorns and ad hoc explanations. It feels as if Carroll drafted part one at a gallop, then crafted part two as an improvisation, reincorporating and reinterpreting the opening material as fantastic: too many rabbits from too many hats. But for all the overweening cleverness, beauty and wisdom reside here. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative Entertainment May 12 2003
As someone recently bit by the Carroll bug, I may not be the most impartial critic. Still I found this book was very enjoyable. I understand the swiftly shifting underlying cosmology of the novel will lose many readers. But it is this which drew me in deeper. Yes, the characters may seem alittle too privledged to connect with some but the underpinnings are sound. I like the fact that while Miranda is sympathetic that when the revelation about her character comes we are not unaware of her personal flaws up to this point. The key to much of the characterization is though we like the characters, we can see their shortcomings. How often do you see that?!
Also having read The Wooden Sea first, I was thrilled to see Frannie again. It should be noted that Kissing The Beehive, this novel, and The Wooden Sea make a rather discrete trilogy of novels. While indvidual stories, they certainly lend a certain resonance to each other.
So if you want something that entertains and provokes thought, you can't go wrong with Carroll. Not the best place to start - I read Sleeping in Flame first but would recommend The Wooden Sea as a good place to start - but still very good. Then again just pick one and jump in. Well worth the time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun trying to be deep April 13 2002
...I both found a delightful author and a disappointment. Carroll is an excellent storyteller, weaving story within story ... I especially appreciated his German folktale without an ending. He does an excellent job of reinterpreting events in light of later understanding (self-understanding) of the characters. He illustrates the "seven degrees of separation" by the constant discovery of interrelationships between the characters. He easily blends multiple world views/realities into a coherent whole. The result is a book that keeps you reading, awaiting the next revision of your understanding of the storyline and of the motivation of the characters. This revision literally continues to the last page.
My disappointment - the story depends upon an acceptance of a division of humanity into "them" and "us". Given the ordinariness of Miranda in the first section of the novel, I found it difficult to buy into her "otherness" - more difficult to accept than the alternative worldviews that caused the volume to be placed in the "fantasy" reading section.
I will certainly read additional books by Jonathan Carroll, expecting that other books will not share this flaw.
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5.0 out of 5 stars From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary March 20 2002
By A Customer
A friend who knows my taste in books suggested I read Jonathan Carroll. She told me she was sure I would like his writing and she was right. I do. Although I bought three "Carroll books," I chose to read "The Marriage of Sticks" first because it seemed the most interesting. I especially liked the fact that I would find elements of both fantasy and horror in this book.
It seems to me that Carroll has what might be termed a "cult following" and this is, in one sense, a shame. While it's certainly not bad to have avid fans (I am now one of those fans), Carroll is such a good storyteller and such a first-rate writer that he really deserves to be far more widely read, especially in his native United States.
The fantasy of Jonathan Carroll is not the fantasy of Marian Zimmer Bradley and her legends of Arthuriana. It is not the fantasy of Tolkien. Carroll's books do not contain kings and queens, wizards and warriors or frogs who become princes when kissed by fair princesses. Don't get me wrong; I like that kind of fantasy, but I love Carroll's own unique brand, too.
Jonathan Carroll seems to write about everyday people in everyday settings. In the case of "The Marriage of Sticks," the "everyday" people are Miranda Romanac and Hugh Oakley, both people who love, hate, make friends, have careers and families and pets and, on the surface, at least, seem to want to do the best in life.
"Seem to want," seems to be a crucial phrase when talking about a Jonathan Carroll book. For his characters seem to be far more than we would have guessed had we met them at a dinner party or an outdoor cafe. They have strange, sometimes macabre, undercurrents and emotional lives that are often in a state of constant turmoil.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, bewildering experience Nov. 25 2001
I just finished The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll this morning, and it was a wonderful, bewildering experience. Reading Carroll is like talking to that exciting friend of yours; you know the one, the person that makes you go places you wouldn't normally go, see things you wouldn't normally see, talk to people you would normally stare at quietly from across the room. If you EVER see a book by Jonathan Carroll on the bookshelves (he's typically listed in the Literature section, alongside Don De Lillo and Chinua Achebe and J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut and those fortunate enough to have escaped genre classification), grab it and don't let go. His books are very hard to find nowadays, and it's a rare treat to see one in a store. Tor, lovely book publisher that they are, have taken to reprinting some of his earlier books in a trade paperback, and The Marriage of Sticks is one of them, though it only came out a few years ago. This is Carroll's second-to-latest novel, it is the most similar to The Wooden Sea, in respect to style and technique and storytellingness. And characterization. Carroll's characters simply leap off the page and whisper their story in your ear. He has the phenomenal ability of drawing you into the story, like a big brother at a campfire. Carroll's books are to be treasured, and to be snagged wherever you can manage to find a copy.
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